El Centro // Session



  • Just getting the basics: food, housing, transportation is a daily struggle
  • Folks straddle the border -- they need the cost of living (healthcare, commodities) in Mexico and the jobs in America (even though Imperial Co has the highest unemployment rate in CA)
  • For every job, there are 100s of applicants so it's difficult to get a job and if you make a mistake someone is there to step in
  • Companies get around providing benefits by reducing hours
  • Family connections are SUPER important -- in an interview they will ask if you have a family member already working there -- it is a voucher that you are a hard worker
  • People who are paying taxes do NOT like those who are committing fraud, i.e., not claiming hours, being unlicensed, going back and forth across the border -- they feel it hurts those who are doing the right thing


  • Alma talked about being a licensed cosmetologist (which she had to pay for) and competing against unlicensed cosmetologists working out of their homes
  • Maria talked about not being eligible for benefits because she lives at home with her parents and so has to enter the entire HH income when applying -- it's a Catch 22 because she can't afford to not live with her family
  • Julie and Laura (our interpreters) talked about having to volunteer for a year before they got a paying job and even with a good state job, they can't afford the basics
  • Aide talked about better jobs up North, but the further North you go the more English you need


  • I recommend bumping up the subtitles on the video if possible -- almost impossible to read in a semi-dark room
  • We need to take a few more minutes to let translators do their jobs -- there is still a lot of the presentation that is not on the slide and it's hard for folks to follow



  • While there are resources to help people prepare for applying for jobs, there's simply not enough jobs in town, especially without degrees or relevant experience
  • People believe that starting their own businesses will be best for their lifestyle and the community (adding jobs), but it's hard to save up or get investment without good credit
  • They prioritized spending on "survival needs" and almost none on entertainment, but bills still pile up and the consequences further prevent them from finding or going to work (e.g. drivers license penalty)
  • It's hard to leave knowing that cities with more jobs have higher cost of living
  • There's a deep distrust in local and national politics, and people don't participate because "nothing ever changes"


  • The mother in our group (forgot her name) worked at the polls and felt abused (worked 15 hours to make $120 and had to deal with people calling her names and being rude). She wasn't even interested in voting or politics to begin with, but this experience worsened it for her
  • Eric said that for entertainment, you're lucky if you have internet (to watch Netflix, etc.) - but for most people, it's $0


  • 23 percent unemployment. There just aren't enough jobs here, especially for the folks who don't have a high school diploma.

  • I left high school to find work and I haven't had any time or money to complete my education.
  • The jobs I can find don't pay me enough and my supervisors don't treat me well.
  • Supervisors see us a disposable.
  • Being so close to the boarder means that there is a steady supply of cheap labor...my competition.
  • I'm always behind on my bills.
  • I rely on the kindness of others to stay afloat.
  • I want to move away from the border for better jobs but the further north I go the more expensive things are.
  • There are no opportunities for our kids here. Our schools are extremely under served.
  • After this recent election, I no longer think that my voice matters.
  • People in power know our needs and our stories, they just don't care. It's all about them.
  • I tried to voice my opinion on social media and I was attacked for it. Now I keep my views to myself.
  • The overwhelming amount of need here strains the little resources that are available. It's almost impossible to get the help that I need.
Jonathan Ota